The Advertising Agency
for Today's Serious
Real Estate Professional

A Proven Plan for Your Past Clients!

Greg reveals how enhancing your image with your past clients today will turn them into a valuable resource for you.

2006 is on pace to be the third or fourth best year in history in real estate, so I know it is hard for you to listen to all the doom and gloom talk about the fact that the real estate market has turned. The reality is that the market has slowed. The number of sales this year will be around six percent less than the number of sales last year. For established agents, they probably won’t even note the little slip in their income. They are still feeling great about how much they have made over the last few years and life remains good. But now is the time to learn from the past. Historically there is about a one-year lag between the time the real estate market hits its peak number of sales transactions and the time the number of new agents coming into real estate hits its peak. So far this year that trend seems to be holding true ‚Äì there are still record numbers of agents pouring into the real estate industry even as the market starts to slow.

Trying Times Ahead for Some
With this in mind, now is time to look ahead. 2007 will probably see another drop in the number of real estate transactions in the five to seven percent range, but with this year’s large influx of new agents, it is going to be more competitive than ever. Time on market will continue to climb and some parts of the country will even see a shift to a buyers‚Äô market and some small downward price adjustments. New agents struggling to survive will offer more and more cut-rate commissions and by mid 2007, articles in newspapers will start to appear talking about the high failure rate of new people coming into real estate, how hard it is to make a living, and the shake out in real estate will begin. We will start to see the total number of agents in the industry drop significantly to bring the supply of agents more in line with demand. This transition period is normally the most trying time for real estate professionals and can be a difficult, emotional rollercoaster ride.

Keeping Past Client Loyalty Strong
One of the easiest ways to avoid this turbulence is to launch an educational and image enhancement program with your past clients and sphere of influence. During times of volatility in the market, the bonds of past client loyalty are easily broken unless you have a plan to keep them strong. The key is to start now, so that by mid 2007 when you really need a steady stream of referrals and repeat business from your past clients, you will have them.

The problem most agents have is that once a transaction is closed, they don’t stay in touch in a meaningful way. After a few years of getting a Christmas card, a calendar and maybe one other piece of mail each year, the past client no longer feels any emotional connection with, or loyalty to the agent.

A Simple Plan
So let me lay out a simple, but incredibly successful plan for keeping you connected to your past clients. First, understand that ideally you should move your clients from the active client plan to your past client plan about 30 to 45 days after a closing. If you have not done this, start now. For all past clients from the past five years, put them on the plan. If you have not stayed in touch with people on a regular basis and it’s been more than five years since their last transaction with you, let them go and learn from your mistake.

Now that you have them on the list, you need to send them something about 20-24 times a year ‚Äì the key is in what you send them. Here’s what you send. Once per quarter you are going to send out a personal letter (on your personal letterhead) that tells a story about what is going on with you and your family. The best stories reflect your basic values and relate in some way to your niche. If you are The Family Realtor¬Æ, you talk about one of your kids and what it means to you to watch them grow up. If you are a golf specialist, you talk about what you learn about yourself playing golf with your son. Writing this story is the hardest part of your past client plan. It must be compelling to read (interesting) and make the reader feel like they really know you and are connected emotionally with you. Do not talk about real estate at all in the letter.

Additionally, you are going to send out a quarterly real estate real estate insight letter. This is a straightforward letter in which you tell your past clients that you want to keep them informed about what is going on in real estate. You list a variety of facts like the number of homes sold in the area this year versus last year, what the average time on the market is this year versus last year, and most importantly, your personal insight into the next quarter. As the churn starts to build, you will want to write a letter about how so many new agents are failing and why. This a great place to talk about seminars that you are attending to stay abreast of the marketplace and learn new skills. When written correctly, it will make your past clients feel like you are learning and growing and are the true expert that they can turn to whenever they have a real estate question.

Next, you should send out two to four PersonalKards each year that have a fun, offbeat message. We like things like Happy Groundhog’s Day, April Fools Day and other offbeat days that make you stand out and show that you have a sense of humor. This is especially important as you become more successful because it keeps you approachable and not so intimidating.

Finally, twice a year you should send out two copies of your personal brochure, once with a cover letter asking them to pass it out to friends they know and once with a letter telling them you value their referrals.

As a great optional activity I recommend that you hold one past client appreciation party or dinner each year and invite all your past clients to come and meet each other. Half of them won’t be able to make it, but you invited them and they will feel like they owe you just a little.

Building Strong Relationships
If you will follow this plan starting now, you will build such a great relationship with your past clients that they will send you an endless supply of referrals and repeat business. Best of all, every time you see them or talk to them, they will feel totally connected to you and feel like you really care about them.

Agents often say, ‚ÄúGreg, is it really worth it to do all that?‚Äù The answer is yes! If you calculate the ROI (return on investment) from following this plan, it is one of the best investments in marketing you can make. The biggest problem is that because the payoff of this plan doesn’t start to really kick in until two years down the road, most agents don’t stay with the plan. Then they suddenly realize the time went by and they don’t have a great relationship with their past clients and their client base is not producing nearly what it could. Trust me on this one, it will make you a fortune.